On Friday, April 1, I drafted my $100k grand prize, NFBC RotoWire Online Championship team. It's a 12-team mixed league, standard 5x5 scoring rules, no trades allowed. It's the same format as the "Beat Jeff Erickson" and "Beat Chris Liss" leagues that you've read about, so unbeknownst to the other 11 participants, I've unofficially dubbed this the "Beat Ryan Rufe" league. Eric Heberlig, who won the Online Championship overall prize in 2013, might take exception to that, as he picked 8th in this draft. My good friend who introduced me to NFBC several years back, Chris Olesen, picked 11th.
I was thrilled to draw the 2nd pick, as I had been in the middle or back-end for all four of my 15-team Draft Champions league drafts this season. If you've never participated in the NFBC before, I highly recommend getting your feet wet in the Draft Champions format. Not only are you forced to have a deep knowledge of the player pool - 750 players are drafted in total, including minor leaguers - but these drafts really help you prepare for the "big boy" contests such as the RotoWire Online Championship or NFBC Main Event.
With the second pick, my plan going into the draft was to load up on pitching early. I wanted to come away with four or five of the top 50 starting pitchers and land two top-end closers. I realize the importance of the Edinson Volzquez, Jon Niese and Tanner Roarks in the fake baseball world, but they're unspectacular and boring and I didn't want half of my rotation to be comprised of this type of pitcher. I'd much rather lock in four or five studs with two closers and not have to be as aggressive streaming the bottom of my rotation. I also felt comfortable with the hitters that would be available in rounds 10-20, so if I landed a few stud hitters in the first five rounds, I'd just fill in the holes in the middle rounds.
Here are the full draft results:
And commentary for each of my picks:
1.2 (2) - Clayton Kershaw - This pick is fairly self-explanatory considering my plan going into the draft was to come away with a stacked pitching staff.
2.11 (23) - George Springer - I might have taken Chris Sale here if he was available, but he went two picks before me at 2.9. Going into the draft, I dismissed the possibility of Springer falling to me in this spot, but I was genuinely shocked to see him there. He offers the power-speed upside that you crave from an early pick and I fully expect him to have a huge season hitting behind Jose Altuve and in front of Carlos Correa.
3.2 (26) - Stephen Strasburg - I love to pick the brains of RotoWire's own Vlad Sedler and Scott Jenstad, who are perennial contenders for the overall prize in this particular contest. Vlad mentioned to me a few days prior to this draft that he could see Strasburg putting up first-round value if he stays healthy all season and I couldn't agree more. He was filthy over the final two months of 2015, going 6-2 with a 1.90 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 92 strikeouts over 66.1 innings.
4.11 (47) - Joey Votto - I was hoping to land one of Dallas Keuchel, Carlos Carrasco, Chris Archer or Noah Syndergaard in this spot, but I knew it would be a long-shot. I narrowly missed out on the reigning AL Cy Young winner (4.10), but I couldn't have been happier with Votto, who fell 10 spots below his ADP based on drafts since March 1.
5.2 (50) - Lorenzo Cain - Cain's average ranking by our RotoWire Roundtable was 36.3, so I was pretty happy to land him with pick 50. I'm not sure the power sticks, but if it does, I'll take it along with a .300 average, 100-plus runs and 25 steals all day.
6.11 (71) - Wade Davis - I had been eyeing Danny Salazar or Maikel Franco with this pick, but they went earlier in the round to Heberlig and Ken Gavron, respectively. Davis was another guy "just sitting there" 10 spots below his ADP, so I scooped him up for a nice leg up in the saves category.
7.2 (74) - Kyle Seager - Third base gets pretty ugly after the top 11 options are off the board, so I locked up a good one who has averaged 159 games played and 20-plus homers over the past four seasons. I also thought about Marcus Stroman here, knowing he probably wouldn't make it back to me in Round 8. I was right, as he went to Team 10 at pick 8.3.
8.11 (95) - Carlos Martinez - I'm a proud Martinez owner in several leagues and Vlad reaffirmed my love for him, pegging him as 2016's version of Jake Arrieta. Let's hope he's right. Ian Desmond (8.7) and Zach Britton (8.10) were also in my queue prior to this pick.
9.2 (98) - Cody Allen - I missed Britton by one pick the round before, but Allen was a fine consolation prize after the turn. Pairing him with Davis should net me 80-plus saves with excellent ratios and strikeout totals from my closers. I absolutely HATE chasing saves via FAAB bidding, so it was important to me to land two elite closers who are secure in their roles.
10.11 (119) - Randal Grichuk - Count me among the contingent who believes Grichuk will smash 30 home runs this season. I drafted him 17 spots ahead of his ADP, but that's what you do when you love a player and don't want to miss out on him.
11.2 (122) - Mike Moustakas - If I would have known Moose would be here in Round 11, I might have taken Stroman in Round 7 instead of Seager. Alas, I'm happy to have two of the top 11 third baseman on my roster and filled the corner infield spot with someone who will hit second in the Royals' lineup this season.
12.11 (143) - Brian McCann - If you look at how some of the other teams were shaping up to this point of the draft, you had a few squads with a truly elite power foundation. One team started with Trout/C. Davis/Cruz and Heberlig started with Machado/Encarnacion/Bautista/Gomez. I typically wait on the catcher position, but I needed some help in the power department and McCann had already fallen 23 spots past his ADP.
13.2 (146) - Stephen Piscotty - I may have jumped the gun on Piscotty, drafting him 32 spots ahead of his ADP, but if he hits anything close to the 18 home runs he hit between Triple-A and the majors last season, this reach will be worth it. I also had Justin Verlander and Luis Severino in my queue, but I couldn't decide between the two pitchers, so I opted for my second Cardinals outfielder of the draft.
14.11 (167) - Kenta Maeda - My good friend Chris Hahn, who finished 27th overall in the Online Championship standings last season, didn't like this pick when I was discussing the results with him after the draft. He thinks I should have selected Patrick Corbin instead and he's probably right considering "irregularities" were found in Maeda's elbow during a physical in the offseason. Scary. I try not to read too much into spring statistics, but repots on the Japanese import were positive and I still like his potential as my SP4, assuming he stays healthy.
15.2 (170) - Curtis Granderson - Love everything that Granderson offers except the batting average, but I'm crossing my fingers that he has another .260 season in him. I could have done a lot worse for my OF5.
16.11 (191) - Daniel Murphy - I had planned to wait even longer than this to draft my second baseman, but Murphy had fallen 20 spots below his ADP and I love what he offers as a solid all-around contributor. His multi-position eligibility (2B/3B, MI/CI) certainly helps too.
17.2 (194) Dellin Betances - Looking back, Wei-Yin Chen or Kyle Hendricks might have been better picks, but at least Betances could finish with nearly as many strikeouts as both starters. Even though he's not the closer in the Bronx, he could still get 5-10 saves in Chapman's absence, depending of course on Andrew Miller's status in April.
18.11 (215) - Lance McCullers - Still in need of pitching, I jumped out of my chair when McCullers was there towards the end of Round 18. I realize he's dealing with a shoulder injury (never good for pitchers) and is opening 2016 on the DL, but he appears to be on track to return sometime in April. For someone who was drafted as high as 108th overall in NFBC drafts since March 1, I think I got a steal at pick 215.
19.2 (218) - Joe Ross - Another young high-upside arm who will begin the season in the Nationals' bullpen until they need a fifth starter. I've heard some say he will eventually out-perform his brother Tyson, so I'll take that kind of upside in Round 19.
20.11 (239) - Matt Holliday - Yes, this is my third Cardinals' outfielder, but I couldn't pass up the aging veteran, who always hits for a good average with solid power and run production. He drew the Opening Day start at first base for St. Louis, so I could be getting multi-position eligibility sooner rather than later.
21.2 (242) - Mark Teixeria - I already had my 1B, CI and UT spots filled, but I couldn't let Teixeira sit in my queue any longer considering he had fallen 57 spots past his ADP.
22.11 (263) - Jerad Eickhoff - My queue had been depleted before this pick, as Domingo Santana, Francisco Cervelli, Ben Paulsen, Cesar Hernandez and Alex Wood all went off the board before I was up in Round 22. I was left scrambling for a pick and Eickhoff was one of the only remaining players I had left in queue. He does have upside as one of the pieces acquired in the Cole Hamels trade, but he plays for the Phillies and has only made eight big league starts in his career.
23.2 (266) - Joe Panik - One of the handful of second baseman who I had planned on targeting late in the draft (Hernandez, Howie Kendrick and Trea Turner being the others). Hopefully his back issues are behind him.
24.11 (287) - Jose Berrios - I had been thinking about drafting Berrios as early as Round 20, so I was thrilled to get him even later than expected. This started the run of pitching prospects who are expected to make their big league debuts this season, as Tyler Glasnow (25.3), Lucas Giolito (26.3) and Blake Snell (26.9) all went off the board shortly after this pick.
25.2 (290) - James McCann - I wanted Jason Castro, but he went earlier than I expected him to in Round 23. McCann was the only catcher left on board that I liked, so I paired him with Brian. The "other" McCann could give me Cervelli-type production without the batting average.
26.11 (311) - Trea Turner - Still lacking middle infielders and stolen base contributors, Turner was an easy pick for me in Round 26. Hoping he can supplant Danny Espinosa sooner rather than later.
27.2 (314) - Kris Medlen - One of my favorite pitching targets late in drafts this season. Love the defense behind him. Looking for 10-plus wins and a 3.50 ERA.
28.11 (335) - Kyle Gibson - There's a lot to like about Gibson and I was pumped to land him in Round 28.
29.2 (338) - Alcides Escobar - You may have noticed that I had yet to draft a starting shortstop up until this point. I had my choice between three decent options: Escobar, Alexei Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins. I went with the player who offered the most stolen base potential, since I appeared to be lacking speed at an eyeball's glance.
30.11 (359) - Jose Peraza - A backup plan in case Turner or Escobar don't pan out for stolen bases. It previously looked like Peraza was set to make the Reds' Opening Day roster and could have gained OF eligibility within the first month or two, but he has since been optioned to Triple-A.
To summarize, here is the "Stealing Signals" roster for Opening Day:
C: Brian McCann (12), James McCann (25)
1B/3B/CI: Joey Votto (4), Kyle Seager (7), Mike Moustakas (11)
2B/SS/MI: Daniel Murphy (16), Alcides Escobar (29), Joe Panik (23)
OF: George Springer (2), Lorenzo Cain (4), Randal Grichuk (10), Stephen Piscotty (13), Curtis Granderson (15)
UT: Matt Holliday (20)
SP: Clatyon Kershaw (1), Stephen Strasburg (3), Carlos Martinez (8), Kenta Maeda (14), Kris Medlen (27), Kyle Gibson (28)
RP: Wade Davis (6), Cody Allen (9), Dellin Betances (17)
Hitter Reserves: Mark Teixeria (21), Trea Turner (26), Jose Peraza (30)
Pitcher Reserves: Lance McCullers (18), Joe Ross (19), Jerad Eickhoff (22), Jose Berrios (24)
I'd love to hear your thoughts on my team, so hit me up on Twitter.